In the shadows of the towering Tsarevets Fortress, which guards the ancient town of Veliko Tarnovo beside the Yantra River, you can find layers of history in this abandoned factory complex, which was once a textile manufacturer.
The factory lies across the Yantra River from the main fortress gate in Veliko Tarnovo. The river flows below worn metal treads of a suspension bridge, which leads to an unnamed lane lined with decaying buildings. Inside a large building, glimpses of art are visible through broken and missing windows—this is the factory’s social hall.
One of the most striking pieces is visible even before you arrive inside the main hall: a colorful mural of a farmer who labors in his straw hat as the sun sets behind him. Go inside, look to your right and you’ll see a demented white tiger in a military cap cackling to itself at the end of the hall.
These are both modern pieces, but between them, is something special: a 20-meter (65 foot) Communist-era mural featuring drab but doughty workers, an assortment of gorgeous hats, a villain with a monocle, and a terribly grim horse. This is the social hall, its floor strewn in glass shards, dead leaves, unmatched shoes, pages of technical documents shaken loose from binders, reels of 8mm film, endless flakes of paint, and other urban detritus.
Many of the rooms connected to the main hall are filled with well-executed art pieces. One is entirely full of chairs. The basement is dark and crowded with crumbling concrete, and is accessible from at least two stairwells. The stairwell closest to the street requires significantly more bravery to traverse than the burned out one at the rear, which is safer and has lovely, peeling teal paint.
This relic on the outskirts of Veliko Tarnovo is a fascinating time capsule of Communist Bulgaria, with modernity seeping in through its cracks. The nearby Hostel Mostel has several vinyl records that were rescued from the social hall. They’re filled with alarms and evacuation messages, and were produced for training purposes when the complex was functional.
Know Before You Go
The roads from the main fortress gate lead to another road, Sveti Kliment Ohridski. Follow it toward the rear of the fortress and you’ll find a rusted suspension bridge over the Yantra River. On the opposite side, across Ulitsa Ksiliforska, there's a bus stop. Walk across the bus turnaround area and turn right up the street, and you’ll see the factory buildings.
You can enter the social hall by walking up the stairs and through the main entrance. The next building up the street is an active business which sometimes has a few cars parked out the front, although no one will care that you're paying the hall a visit—just the friendly stray dogs, who like to bounce around the perimeter of your path.